When the breeze is on, just about any sailboat will get up and go, but it’s the light-air days that make you appreciate a well-designed and balanced hull, an efficient sail plan and a responsive rudder. It was the latter conditions that we were dealt the morning after the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, when we went for a test sail aboard the new Xp 44 from X-Yachts.
“Sailed beautifully, steered beautifully, everything was executed very, very well,” concluded Boat of the Year judge Mark Schrader afterward. The Xp 44 was the first boat we’d sailed after the show and it set the bar quite high for the remainder of the fleet throughout a week of sea trials.
Indeed, the entire three-judge panel left the Xp 44 that day extolling its looks, construction, gear and, most of all, the time each got to spend on the helm. To add my own two cents, I know I had a noticeable grin as I sat to leeward, leaning against the lifelines and steering with just my fingertips. In 10 knots of wind, the boat heeled slightly when close-hauled, with GPS speeds in the mid 7s. Twenty-four hours at that rate, and you could boast a fairly respectable day’s run.
X-Yachts has been building sailboats in Denmark for nearly four decades. Racing has long been in the company’s design DNA, and principal designer Niels Jeppesen has a long list of winners on his resume. But along the way, X-Yachts has also attracted the attention of a wider community of sailors, both for its Xc line of family cruisers and its Xp performance-oriented racer cruisers.
| |The Xp 44’s companionway hatch can be lowered all the way down, locked in place halfway up to prevent down flooding or be raised all the way to close the boat up.|
The Xp 44 comes standard with an aluminum mast and boom, though the boat we sailed had the optional carbon-fiber rig, sporting a full-batten main and 106 percent jib set on a below-deck Profurl furler. Unlike on some of the boats we saw that week, access to the furler, in case of a jam, was excellent. For sailing off the wind, an asymmetrical sail can be set on the optional carbon bowsprit and anchor roller, which this boat had. While the sprit gives the bow a sporty look, we did have to give the hook a little nudge when launching it.
Under way, I found it was easy to move about the cockpit, both between the twin wheels and forward to the open seating area and companionway. A large table with leaves is stored in a compartment beneath the cockpit sole so it’s out of the way when sailing but easily deployed in port. I appreciated the fact that seated at either of the twin wheels, I could reach out and grab an end of the split German-style mainsheet and the control lines for the traveler, which is embedded in the sole from coaming to coaming. On a blustery day, a short-handed helmsman could depower things quickly.
On deck, the optional teak provided excellent nonskid (teak comes standard in the cockpit) and there was no clutter of lines, since the mainsheet is led below deck and the jib sheets are kept tight to the cabin house. My one (minor) gripe would be that the ports in the cabin sides open outward and could snag lines or ankles. Belowdecks, though, they provide lots of ventilation when open.
| |_Belowdecks, the saloon is simple but elegantly finished. The fiddled desktop to starboard can be used as a cocktail table with seats to each side, or can slide aft for use as the nav station. _|
X-Yachts builds 100 to 110 boats a year and its construction methods are top notch. The hull and deck of the 44 are epoxy-infused foam-and-glass sandwiches, reinforced with carbon fiber in high-load areas. A carbon-fiber keel grid is bonded to the hull, as are the hull liner and furniture for added stiffness. The 44 is the first X-Yacht to use the carbon keel grid, which replaces a galvanized steel ring found in other models. The change was made to add strength and reduce weight. Weight savings are also achieved by using foam-cored composites in fabricating some of the furniture. The result is a sailboat that is light, strong and easily driven, but capable of standing to its canvas when conditions kick up. The Xp 44 is a sailor’s boat and the interior reflects this; it’s elegant, but at the same time, simple and functional. White fiberglass panels and light-color upholstery are set off by just enough teak trim to make the cabin seem rich and inviting. There are vented hanging lockers in the twin double aft cabins. A compact but well-outfitted galley sits to port of the companionway stairs, a head and shower (a perfect wet hanging locker) to starboard. Forward of the galley, an L-shaped dinette is big enough to seat a crew but the settee can double as a sea berth. To starboard a long settee can be broken up by a cocktail table or the table can move aft to become the nav station, rendering a second midship sea berth. A generously sized owners’ cabin with head and shower and a hanging locker is forward of the mast.
The boat we sailed was equipped with a 40-horsepower Yanmar engine, saildrive and two-blade Gori prop. Under power the boat backed well and motored smoothly.
The Xp 44 is probably not an entry-level boat. Construction of this caliber and first-rate gear all come at a price. The boat, as we sailed it, delivered to the U.S. East Coast, was north of $500,000. But as Schrader noted, this is likely to be a boat that someone is trading up to, and it would be a buyer who knows what he wants — quality construction and outstanding sailing performance — and who is willing to pay for it.
Turning to his notes, Schrader ticked off his entries in the Xp’s plus column: “Traditional boat using really, really good materials, well executed, fit and finish terrific.”
From a sailor’s perspective, what’s not to love?